I am sweating. The not-so-tiny infant inside my enormous body and the church sanctuary with poor air handling combine to make me regret my choice to abandon my typical mom-bun and wear my long hair down. It’s sticking to my neck and face. More bothersome than the heat and my crazy hormones is the strain of parenting. I managed to herd them to the service on my own, but now I am in the very front row at church. This is where my mother-in-law sits. Because my husband is perpetually in the back at the soundboard, the prospect of extra grownup hands to wrangle my girls outweighs my general aversion to being in the front row. My 2- and 3-year-old girls are squirmy and whisper loudly at inappropriate times. They tap my hugely pregnant belly repeatedly and urgently, wanting to know why they can’t have crackers and juice (communion) for “snack” and when the music is coming so they can twirl with abandon in the aisle. My church is made largely of young families, so I’m not getting side-eye from fellow congregants; they seem mostly amused by my girls’ antics. I am not.
My church has Sunday School during the service, so they could go to class with kids their own age, have all kinds of noisy preschool fun, and eat raisins for snack instead of communion, but I don’t see any theological basis for dividing families for worship this way. I want my littles to feel like part of the larger church body. I want them to know what it looks like to worship with their family (well, with their mama, at any rate) and see Daddy serving as a sound guy. I want them to know how to sit quietly, scribbling on the children’s bulletins provided. There will be time later for interacting with their peers, but this is the time to lay a foundation for fellowship that will serve them for decades to come. I have visions of them sweetly scribbling away, munching on goldfish crackers, perhaps occasionally asking pertinent questions about the sermon in their best “library voices.” Visions that, despite my best effort every week for their entire lives, have remained unfulfilled.
That morning, I quit.
Whatever my rationale for keeping the girls with me in the front row, it wasn’t working anymore. I enjoyed my girls’ company and my reasons were noble, but it needed to stop for the sake of myself and the other adults and for the sake of the babies who were ending up with the worst, most stressed-out version of their mother every Sunday morning. I didn’t want church services to be something to survive.
It takes a certain level of humility to quit. I had explained to plenty of people what my hopes were for my children in church services. Facial responses generally fell into two categories: the “wow, good for you!” faces and the “all right, crazy lady… to each her own” faces. I wanted to prove I could do this, even though it was harder. I was convinced it was the right course for my children. It wasn’t easy to admit, even to myself, that, despite my hubris and enthusiasm for the idea, it wasn’t necessarily the best choice forever and ever, amen.
I find this true more and more often. The baby imminent that Sunday is now four and his baby sister is two and a half. The big girls are in early elementary school, and I’m finding pah-lenty of chances to practice the humility and wisdom of quitting. I’m homeschooling the girls, and I’ve quit curriculums and I’ve quit cursive. Who knows? I may someday quit homeschool. I quit potty training, and I quit insisting my children wear pajamas to bed or socks to anyplace besides McDonald’s Playland. I’ve recently begun quitting books that don’t grab me (I KNOW, I CAN STILL HARDLY STAND IT), and I quit dieting altogether because I quit believing in pounds or BMI as a measure of worth—or even health.
Sundays still look a little crazy. (Just ask me my thoughts on the song, “Easy like Sunday Morning.” Go on. I dare you.) I scramble to get my four dressed and fed and in the car. You’d think it would be simple enough—I manage to get them out of the house other days. But for some reason, without fail, 10:30 on Sunday morning finds me putting tights on the baby while wondering why none of my children seem to have any left shoes and insisting the big girls find something to cover their undergarments because they’re definitely going to do cartwheels or something equally likely to reveal their polka-dotted panties at some point during Sunday School. It’s absurd, and by the time we arrive, I certainly do not have the wherewithal to monitor all of them during the sermon.
I still want my kids to learn to sit with me in the service, but Sunday School is working well for us. Oddly, they sometimes fight and whine to come with me—Big Church has become a reward for excellent obedience during the morning leading up to it. (Didn’t see that coming.)
I am a quitter.
There. I said it. I hate doing it, to be honest, even after all this practice. It feels like failure. Defeat. But also, when I choose it carefully, it feels a little like freedom.
Robin Chapman is a full-time imperfect Jesus lover, wife, and mama to four babies six and down. When she isn’t buried in children or hiding from them, she enjoys reading, photography, and sharing stories on her blog, where she’d love to connect with you! You can also find her on Facebook or Instagram… or perhaps hiding in her bathroom with some coffee.